Food & Flexibility – The Best Nutrition for Stretching

Article by Lucas Rockwood

Are you practicing stretching exercises to improve your range of motion but feeling sore, frustrated, and like you’re not making progress? If so, this guide is for you.

As well as being a yoga teacher, I am also a qualified nutritional therapist. Here I’ll reveal why the food you eat can make a big difference to your progress. With the proper nutritional building blocks, you can help your body to improve collagen synthesis, reduce recovery, and fight inflammation naturally.

Collagen-Friendly Foods

Collagen is the most-abundant protein in the body, and a stretching student’s best friend. To give your body the nutrients it needs to synthesize these tissues, below is a list of foods to focus on.

  • Protein – Plant-based or animal proteins are great. Aim for 0.8 to 1 gram per pound of body weight per day.
  • Zinc – Red meat, such as beef and lamb, as well as seafood like oysters are high in zinc. Cheese, eggs, almonds and pumpkin seeds are also rich in zinc.
  • Copper – Nuts and seeds, dark chocolate, shellfish, and organ meats are all good sources of copper.
  • Sulfur – Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and chard, as well as allium vegetables like onions and garlic are excellent sources of sulfur. Meat, poultry, and seafood will also up your intake.
  • Vitamin C – Most fruit and vegetables are abundant sources of vitamin C, but citrus fruits, bell peppers, tomatoes, blackcurrants and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts are particularly potent sources.

Foods For Sore Muscles

Magnesium is involved in many important bodily functions, including muscle function. It helps regulate muscle contractions and relaxations and may also have an anti-inflammatory effect. Magnesium is found most abundantly in green plant foods, dark chocolate, nuts, seeds, and legumes.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Deep stretching will inevitably lead to some localized inflammation. This is a natural and appropriate response, but you want to give your body the nutrients it needs to cool that inflammation when its ready. There are many foods with anti-inflammatory properties that can be incorporated into your diet, but some are much more potent than others.

  • Omega-3 fats – These are found in fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, as well as in nuts, seeds, and plant-based oils. Omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation by inhibiting the production of pro-inflammatory compounds.
  • Turmeric – This orange root or powered spice contains curcumin, which has potent anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Pineapple – This tropical fruit contains the enzyme bromelain, used as a meat tenderizer and when ingested, can reduce inflammation.
  • Ginger – This root has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects and may be helpful in reducing muscle soreness.
  • Garlic – Fresh or dried, this spice contains allicin, a compound that has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects.

Download PDF pose chart

What About Supplements?

It’s very challenging to get all the nutrients you need, particularly micronutrients, from your diet. Supplementation can be a simple way to boost your nutrients quickly, and in most cases it’s safe and affordable. The micronutrients we’ve discussed here–copper, zinc, magnesium, sulfur, and vitamin C–are all common, safe to supplement with, and you can buy them inexpensively. The exception is omega-3. When it comes to essential fatty acids, you need to choose a top manufacturer, and it’s often an expensive addition to your monthly food bill.

Want to Learn More?